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Cart #51597 | 2018-04-14 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | No License

Here's a super secret preview of Dragondell, a cute stealth adventure game. Code and art are by me, music and sound design are by Gruber -- grubermusic.com. The main page for this game is now on its itch.io page -- feel free to continue leaving comments here as well, but I may be slower to see them, and the version here may lag behind that version if I make further updates.

Note: There's a brief flashing effect when you go through the portal. You can disable it in the pause menu.


  • Collect loot by bringing keys to chests
  • Befriend royals with O (z), then return them to the castle of the proper color (match robes to flags and lead them all the way to the door)
  • Don't get spotted by knights; you can breathe fire at them by holding X (x), but it takes a couple seconds
  • Once all the royals are returned, use the portal to end the game



  • Knights will now only alert when they see fireballs on Veteran.
  • Found some tokens and added key hints.


  • Tuned knight speeds at Adventurer and Veteran difficulty levels.
  • Fixed a bug that caused roasted-knight ash to stay in the room if you roasted two knights in the same place.


  • Added sentries.
  • Added difficulty settings.
  • Fixed royals not entering castles after swapping positions.


  • Made the board a little smaller; there's now 5 each of royals and treasure instead of 7.
  • Knights you haven't seen before should no longer spawn right next to you. (If you let one chase you off screen and then turn around and come back, it'll still be there, though.)
  • Added new score bonuses and adjusted some existing values.
  • Fixed bug whereby roasting a knight who was standing on a key would destroy the key.


  • Fixed the speed bonus not resetting properly in between games.


  • Updated sounds to final version, including end music.
  • Keys, coins, and piles of ash (former knights) no longer block sight, movement, or fireballs.
  • Added more possible score segments.
  • Added new set pieces.
  • Put visible trays in the HUD for keys, coins, and crowns.
  • Adjusted the fireball sprite to look more continuous.
  • Adjusted some set pieces.
  • Fixed knights sometimes spawning on top of castles.
  • Fixed chests spawning in positions that would block passage through the room.


  • Fixed speed bonus calculation.
  • Fixed several bugs that caused sounds to repeat rapidly.
  • Fixed the timing of the portal using noise.
  • You can now move while befriending.
  • If you manage to step through a door onto an NPC, that NPC should now move. (Please let me know if you successfully reproduce this, it's hard to test.)
  • Knights will now pause for a moment when you enter a room.


  • Fixed bug where special items would sometimes be placed behind trees.
  • Bumping into knights from behind makes them turn around.
  • Knights turn to ash a little faster when fireballed.
  • Ash will disappear immediately when you leave the room.
  • Tweaked some score bonuses.
  • Some new sfx and related bugfixes.


  • Capped the speed bonus based on how many rooms the player visited.


  • First draft of sfx!
  • Knights will no longer turn around if you sneak up right behind them.
  • Knights now notice fireballs in their field of view and try to find the origin.
  • The end portal now only appears after returning the last royal.
  • Added a bunch of new score bonuses, some of them quite silly.
  • Lots of title screen improvements.
  • Minor adjustments to room templates.


  • Fixed a bug in vision cone calculations (thanks Joel!)
  • Massive art update.


  • Fixed a bug where the castle distribution was sometimes different from "one of each color" (thanks Yoshi!)
  • Fixed a bug where knights would get stuck in their "charging" sprite if you left the room and came back
  • More score tweaks


  • Map generation now validates rooms (to make sure all goals and exits are reachable)
  • Made it even harder for knights to chase you immediately on room entry (and easier to get out of it if you're clever)


  • Switched to the version number I actually meant last time (whoops)
  • Knights who have spotted you but not yet charged on you move faster
  • Knights will not be looking at you as soon as you enter a room (even for the second time)
  • Minor tweaks to room generation, scoring, and portal animation
  • Added menu option to disable flicker effect
P#50789 2018-03-25 05:18 ( Edited 2018-06-16 18:34)

Overall it was pretty good, it felt original both in concept and graphics. I think I've understood most of it, except how to return king to castles when there are less than 3. The game length and the scoring are both ok.
I wished I could burn the kings, but the fact that they dodges the flames makes it easier to understand that they are not meant to be burned, so I'm fine with it.
Small fun game, has the potential to envolve into a big fun game :)
PS : Just saw the part of your post on kings and castles. So that's how it works ! Will check it.

P#50815 2018-03-25 18:47 ( Edited 2018-03-25 22:47)

Thanks firefly! I'm glad the fireball-dodging made it clear that royals are friends, not firewood. ;) Can you say more about what you meant by "when there are less than 3"? What did you see or try that didn't make sense?

I would love to evolve this into a bigger fun game (there's plenty more ideas in my file) but I don't think it's going to happen within one pico-8 cartridge, sadly. :)

P#50821 2018-03-25 21:04 ( Edited 2018-03-26 01:04)

Sure : what happened is that I had 5 kings following me, but when I got in from of a castle, only the last 2 entered it. So I mistakenly assumed that you need more than 3 kings to use the castle.
Then I read your post. Then I tried again and noticed the colors.
On my last session, I only had 2 rooms to explore because the third was blocked by 2 trees.

P#50830 2018-03-26 02:29 ( Edited 2018-03-26 15:41)

I like it! Will you be adding music and sound?

P#50844 2018-03-26 10:09 ( Edited 2018-03-26 14:09)

Yes to music! Assuming I can find space in the cart for it, haha. I'm currently stymied by compressed size problems, which is keeping me from exporting a version with some small improvements.

Sorry about the blocked map. :( I know how I'm going to prevent that from happening but I've been putting off implementing it, heh. It's the last big thing that needs to happen (in addition to sound).

If I can find the space I'll also be throwing in an instructions screen too. If not, I'll just ship it with a manual. :P

Thanks for the feedback!

P#50845 2018-03-26 10:27 ( Edited 2018-03-26 14:27)

Updated! See changelog in the post body for notes.

P#50875 2018-03-27 00:44 ( Edited 2018-03-27 04:44)

This is nice, gonna play again in depth

This is exactly the kind of games I like on pico8

You should add items that give some power (one time power)

P#50926 2018-03-28 13:34 ( Edited 2018-03-28 17:35)

Thanks for the kind words!

I totally agree about powerups. I don't think I'll have space in the cart for it, but it's on my list to squeeze in if I can.

And for everyone who's been appreciating this: I'm currently targeting an unsecret official release on April 13. If you're on Twitter and into this kind of thing, I'd love it very much if you'd give this announcement a boost!


P#50999 2018-03-29 15:08 ( Edited 2018-03-29 19:08)

I couldn't manage to complete it but nonetheless it becomes a bit boring quickly.

Guards should randomly make a 180° turn around (else it's easy to kill them)

There should be more variety in gameplay too.

About a one time power up (found in chests), I'd say a push away spell that pushes back the knight when you activate it at the right moment

P#51182 2018-04-02 11:17 ( Edited 2018-04-02 15:17)

Oh, a push would be neat! I'll throw that on the powerup ideas list. :) One tricky thing about that is how to activate it, what with having only two buttons, but I bet it's doable.

Agreed about guard behavior -- ideally I'd like to have more different guards, we'll see if I have space in the cart for it.

Thanks for trying it out!

P#51225 2018-04-02 21:05 ( Edited 2018-04-03 01:05)

Wonderful game... a bit of stealth formula in Metal Gear style ;)

Is nice that there's a delay to breath fire so the game doesn't get dead easy by killing the guards on sight... but personally i prefer going Pacifist and stealth all the way through without killing... more challenging but more fun for me, it's still nice to have both options anyway.

If you have some spare card space to waste add a how to play with illustrations or text (boring!) to guide the player of what to do... something simple, make it accessible in the title screen by pressing a certain key ... that's the only major thing I believe the game is lacking for being feature complete... major players don't RTFM, specially if they downloaded your game from splore... considering the restrictions of pico-8 is understandable if this can't be implemented.

Kinda disagree with "randomly make a 180° turn" suggestion, specially if he turns around out of the blue (without halting or reaching obstacle), this makes guard AI seems chaotic and unpredictable as if it didn't had an AI at all (like the programmer just random() a direction to cheap out lack of proper AI behavior)... besides as a player studying the guard's pattern and figuring out the right time to cross is what makes a stealth game great (at least for me).

Some suggestion for new types of guards (or dogs!), some may be available in higher difficulties:

  • A stronger equipped but slower guard with probably narrower field of vision (due to his heavy helmet which restricts him), because of his stronger armor you can't kill him.
  • A dog can sense you in 360º circle by "smell" but has short range, obstacles won't conceal you.
  • The dog mechanic can be used on guards by even smaller range, of course they can't "smell" but they can "hear", walking on different terrains may influence the amount of noise(!?)
  • Based on above idea, befriending royals may generate considerable noise.
  • A unarmed "scout" which is faster and/or see better, he can't attack you but when he sees you all enemies on screen will chase you at your position as long you're in his field of vision.
  • A stationary "scout" in a tower (same functionality as above), he will look around either clockwise or anti-clockwise.
  • ... more? Check out a game called "Volume" for inspiration or a few ideas.

Lastly, you can place the change-log in a hidden tag.

bah bah bah...
Kinda like this
bah bah bah...

P#51311 2018-04-04 16:03 ( Edited 2018-04-04 20:03)

You're exactly right about why there's a chargeup on the fireball -- I had it the other way first but this is both more challenging and more fun. That said, I also prefer stealthing to using them ;) I think just out of laziness, haha. It took me a while to figure out how to set up scoring for that but I'm happy with where it's at now (pacifism bonus == point value of fireballing all guards, so either one's fine as long as you commit).

Yeah I totally agree in principle about instructions. I've been going back and forth on whether I want to use the tokens on that or something more mechanical. My plan in part is to tempt itch.io players (when I release it up there next week) with a cool retro manual that includes detailed instructions and lore and scoring tips and stuff, but it's still absolutely true that people won't read it, haha.

The guards were actually a lot more random in earlier versions, similar to the way royals wander (maybe actually the same code, I forget), and as you suppose, it makes stealth much harder and less rewarding. The predictability is important. (Besides, at this point I've spent a lot of time and tokens reducing the likelihood of guards insta-killing you on room entry!) It's still true that they could use more variety for sure though.

Ooh, I'd thought about having a guard that was harder to kill, but not one that you couldn't kill at all. That's an interesting thought. I wonder if that would bug more extermination-heavy players.

Some of your other guard ideas I'd also thought of, but dog with a circular smell radius and stationary rotating guard I had not! Really clever. Positioning the stationary one randomly but in a way that's likely to be interesting might be tricky -- maybe only in the middle of bigger gaps (3x3 open spaces). Otherwise not too interesting if it's stuck in a corner.

I'll check out Tower, thanks. :)

... definitely forgot that hidden tags existed, haha. Good call.

Thanks so much for playing and for the ideas! Really flattered by the Metal Gear comparison. :) I'm at ... checks ... 8085 tokens right now, so there's not gonna be much more. But I'm sure there's still some tokens I can squeeze out of the existing code, so I'll see what I can do! (This is also why I'm on the fence about spending them on in-game instructions.)

P#51327 2018-04-05 03:54 ( Edited 2018-04-05 07:54)

Found some tokens, and to no one's surprise more than mine, managed to squeeze in two important things I didn't think I'd have room for: an extra enemy type, and a difficulty setting. It's not much, I know, but I'm interested to hear if that helps at all with the challenge and variety. :)

P#51401 2018-04-08 01:03 ( Edited 2018-04-08 05:03)

It's out! https://relsqui.itch.io/dragondell

Thanks for all your help, friends. Your feedback really improved the game, especially at the end there.

P#51595 2018-04-13 17:21 ( Edited 2018-04-13 21:21)

I discovered this recently on the BBS and genuinely enjoyed it. If you ever do a sequel or some kind of follow up one day that would be really cool.

I also did a let's play video of it recently where I play it through:


P#53495 2018-06-12 05:58 ( Edited 2018-06-12 09:58)

@inphanta Awesome, thank you! I'm really glad you enjoyed. :) I'm not sure if I'm going to do a followup, but I agree with your thoughts about some of the directions that could go.

If you're still puzzled by the stubborn royals not going into castles, it's because they were the wrong color. ;) Royals in red robes go to the castle with red flags, and so on.

P#53605 2018-06-16 14:34 ( Edited 2018-06-16 18:34)

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